This isn’t the first-time hearing about how eating more plants can be beneficial to your health. In fact, I’m sure you’ve heard it time and time over again. Well, I’m here as a health professional and Registered Dietitian, telling you the inclusion of more plants and/or vegetables into your lifestyle is very important.
To clarify, I am not vegetarian. I simply enjoy eating meat and I believe my body equally benefits from getting some animal protein. I would never recommend or persuade my clients to stick to any one diet or lifestyle, it is totally up to you! But, I do encourage all of you to include MORE plants to whatever diet/lifestyle you choose. Instead of telling you to avoid meat (if you enjoy eating it), I would just suggest adding in more plants on top of what you are currently eating and to continue eating meat mindfully.
Now let’s get to why plants are so awesome. Not only are they naturally delicious, but they are fiber-rich. What exactly is fiber and how does it play a crucial role in your body? Fiber is the material that our bodies cannot digest or absorb. There are two types of dietary fiber: Soluble and Insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like consistency, this includes foods such as oatmeal, beans, apples, citrus fruits, etc. Soluble fiber can help keep your ticker intact, contributing to cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol. Think of soluble fiber as a ball covered in Velcro, picking up whatever comes along, carrying the cholesterol out. It can also help to maintain blood sugar levels by slowing absorption of sugar in the body, as fiber is not digested.
Insoluble fiber is just as great – foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, whole-wheat, nuts, etc. This type of fiber helps increase stool bulk, which will help move the “waste” through your body. It is especially important for those who experience constipation, so it is a good reminder to regularly consume both types of fiber from your diet. For those of you wanting to keep your weight in check, consuming insoluble fiber can help support weight maintenance. Fibrous foods in general tend to be more satiating and keep you satisfied longer than foods with minimal or low fiber content.
Plants are also known for containing a plethora of antioxidants and each to their own, so that’s why eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds are important. We don’t tell you to eat the rainbow for nothing! Antioxidants help your body fight free radicals that are consistently present so the more the merrier when it comes to the powerful substances.
I personally think there can never be enough research when it comes to dietary effects on health, but one topic that seems to show up more frequently and of concern is the association between meat (particularly red meat) and cancer. Other health conditions including heart disease (coronary artery disease specifically) and diabetes are tied to high intake of red meat or a diet heavy in animal protein. There can be many causes of such diseases so not to pinpoint meat as the leading cause, but it may contribute. I also think quantity has a huge impact as well.
Whether you are a meat lover or not, it is never too late to start eating more plants!